Nothing beats the excitement of finally visiting your neighborhood fish store to equip your ideal aquarium. I’m sure you’ve fantasized about it a million times, we’ve all done so.
We are fortunate that the aquatic environment offers so much diversity. Hobbyists can create a rainbow of hues in their aquariums by keeping a variety of beautiful freshwater fish together as tank mates.
Regardless of your skill level, tank size, or aquarium, this article highlights the best colorful freshwater fish you should consider when stocking your aquarium. Without further ado, below are 30 colorful freshwater fish everyone should pet at least once in their lifetime.
1. Betta Fish
Betta fish are among the most attractive freshwater fish available for aquariums. Perhaps this is the most vibrant tropical fish. Betta fish are available in a range of color and pattern variations, including solid, butterfly, marble, koi, and dalmatian. As far as tails go, you can choose from various options such as the Halfmoon, crown, veil, and dumbo.
Expert Tip: Betta is a good beginner fish, but you will need a planted 5-gallon set up to keep it (minimum). Males should be kept separately because of their aggressive behavior.
2. Blue German Ram Fish
The German blue ram is a popular multicolored cichlid with yellow bodies and dazzling blue patterns covering the belly, tail, and fins. Males have a pointed fin, while females are often smaller with a pinkish belly. They also have striking black stripes running across their red eyes.
If you want to keep a pair of German blue rams, you’ll need a tank with at least 20 gallons of water and plenty of hiding places and plants. Rams prefer to reside and establish territories in the tank’s middle to lower levels. While blue Germans are mostly calm fish, they can turn violent when competing for territory with other rams.
To keep these fantastic fish, you need to be a relatively competent aquarist, as they are susceptible to bad water parameters.
3. Cardinal Tetra
A group of cardinal tetras is one of the most spectacular displays in a planted freshwater aquarium. This magnificent micro fish is a member of the Characidae family of the order Characiformes.
The ventral sections of the cardinal tetra’s torpedo body are stunning, with red and neon blue stripes extending along its body. A school of six in a 15-gallon tank is ideal.
4. Neon Tetra
Neon tetras are related to cardinal tetras. However, the iridescent blue stripe extends from the nose to the adipose fin, while the red stripe runs from the tail to the dorsal fin. This fish is an excellent choice for individuals looking to build a vibrant community tank.
Neons tetras are smaller than cardinals. It would be best to keep at least six of them in a ten-gallon landscaped tank (minimum). A larger tank with a more extensive shoal will always produce a more colorful show.
Discus are named for their disc-shaped bodies and come in astonishing patterns, colors, stripes, spots, and striations. The most common discus are generally beautiful hues of red, brown, green, and blue. This fish is well-known for its vibrantly colored patterns, resulting from selective breeding.
When selecting a brightly colored fish for your aquarium. I wouldn’t recommend discus for beginners because they can be challenging to keep. If you pick discus, you’ll need at least a 55-gallon tank loaded with plenty of live plants, ornaments, and open swimming spaces.
Expert Tip: Due to the shoaling nature of this species, you should keep a minimum of 3-5 fish together.
6. Jack Dempsey Cichlid
The Jack Dempsey’s personality, size, and color have made it one of the most sought-after colorful freshwater fish. This oval-shaped fish is a sight to see with its long, rounded tail and big dorsal and anal fins. Their base color varies from a dusky, rosy pink to a dark, nearly black shade.
They have shiny, iridescent greenish-blue dots that reflect light and sparkle brightly as they swim. Additionally, just like wine, Jack Dempsey fish age gracefully. As they grow older, the iridescent speckles on their skin become more noticeable.
7. Dwarf Gourami
Dwarf gouramis are among my favorite brightly colored freshwater fish. It is a tranquil fish with an oval body and large dorsal and anal fins.
Dwarf gouramis come in various colors, including flame red, metallic blue, neon blue, powder blue, and honey-colored varieties with stripes, spots, and solids. They are pretty lovely fish to include in your community aquarium.
Dwarf gouramis prefer the higher layers of the tank and are therefore best kept with bottom and mid dwellers. Their pelvic fins set them apart from others. You’ll need a 10-gallon aquarium to keep dwarf gouramis.
Males, despite their calm nature, can become violent to one another. It’s best to keep one male every four to five females when managing a colony.
8. Endlers Fish
Endlers are a vibrant and distinctive type of fish with vivid color patterns. They are available in black, metallic green, orange, blue, and yellow shades. As a result of their ability to breed, they have become a popular target for selective breeding and hybridization.
Endlers are available in most fish stores and should be housed in one male and five females to aid in breeding control. They are tranquil fish that thrive in planted communal tanks, adding a vibrant splash of color and a flurry of activity.
9. Boesemani Rainbow Fish
The boesemani has a lengthy body and distinctive color pattern, making it stand out from other varieties. This attractive fish has garnered considerable interest in the aquarium industry.
Expert Tip: When combined with other freshwater fish such as discus, tetras, shrimp, or guppies, this gentle community fish can help you build a gorgeous tropical aquarium brimming with life and color.
10. Paradise Fish
These fish are both colorful, cool-looking, and aggressive. Paradise fish are spectacular freshwater fish with their vibrant red and blue stripes, forked tails, and big dorsal fins. They are also aggressive fish that engage in hostile behavior toward one another and attack or even kill smaller fish.
This breed is renowned for its ability to change color when fighting, revealing dark blue lines on its body.
The most secure approach to keeping paradise fish is in a species-only aquarium with plenty of plants. Keeping them with other species is feasible as long as they are the tank’s dominant species. It would be best if you kept a male for every five females.
11. Electric Blue Hap
Due to their vibrant colors, electric blue haps are among the most desirable African Freshwater fish in the aquarium world. Its tall, slim body can reach a maximum length of 7.9 inches and features an intense, eclectic blue color scheme with dark blue vertical bars.
These are highly territorial and aggressive fish that will fight to the death if given a chance. That is why it is advisable to keep one male per tank. If your tank is big. densely planted, and features a sandy floor and rock heaps you can keep more than one electric blue hap.
12. Cherry Barb Fish
Named after their vibrant crimson color covering their entire body. Cherry Barbs are among the most sought-after freshwater aquarium fish. Cherry barb fish can be an idyllic addition to a community tank alongside other peaceful schooling fish like rasboras and neon tetras.
Males can become slightly aggressive during breeding. Thus, it is better to keep them in a ratio of one male fish to two females. The greater the size of the school, the more energetic and lively this breed will be.
13. Flowerhorn Cichlid
This is another unique and visually appealing fish in the aquarium world. Flowerhorns typically have vivid orange heads that fade to a white/golden body with dark dots along the lateral line.
A common trait between this species is the presence of long, tipped fins on both the dorsum and tail. Tail forms vary widely among color variants. There are just too many types to mention. Their massive, thick bodies, prominent lips, and jaw-dropping nuchal bulge make them the aquarium’s focal point.
Expert Tip: Flowerhorn cichlids are pretty aggressive and should be kept in a 75-gallon tank alone.
14. Bluefin Notho
This breed is a vivid, lively freshwater killifish with a bright red body speckled with shimmering turquoise. You can keep this bottom-to-middle-dwelling fish with other peaceful communal fish of similar size. Because bluefin notho are territorial, it is advisable to keep them in a ratio of one male to three to five females.
You’ll need at least a ten-gallon tank that is densely grown with plenty of peat moss and hiding places.
15. Celestial Pearl Danio
Dubbed the celestial pearl danio, this fish has a dark green body and reddish-orange belly with dazzling yellow spots. They are amazing to watch as they hover in challenging positions before darting into and out of the vegetation for long periods.
Celestial Pearl Danios are resilient fish that prefer grouping. These vibrant freshwater fish thrive in communal aquariums. Ensure that the tank does not contain any aggressive fish and contains a wide variety of live aquarium plants.
16. Salvini Cichlid
Salvini Cichlids are another attractive species of fish. In addition to the pointed snout and black “flowers” on the side, they feature a bright yellow, oval-shaped body. Salvini Cichlids also have iridescent patches that shimmer and shine when it swims.
This breed can reach a maximum length of 8 inches, requiring a minimum tank size of 55 gallons to host one of these fantastic-looking fish. This fish is territorial and aggressive. They are, however, less hostile against other Salvini cichlids, which makes it possible to keep a male and female together.
To help your Salvini cichlid develop a territory, provide plenty of live aquarium plants, vast swimming areas with strong currents, driftwood, and decor in their tank.
17. Harlequin Rasboras
This is another exquisite small freshwater breed with a vivid crimson lozenge body and a black wedge extending from the dorsal fin to the tail. This breed is a great addition to a tranquil community tank because of its significant schooling tendencies.
If you want to add this breed to your aquarium, ensure that it is densely planted with plenty of open spaces to provide the best viewing experience.
18. Electric Yellow Labs
Aquarium keepers love the bright yellow coloration and black dorsal fin stripe of the electric yellow lab. While electric yellow labs are pretty calm compared to other African Cichlids, they are infamous fin nippers and should not be housed in a communal fresh water tank. Keep this fish in a community aquarium with other Malawi cichlids.
The bare minimum for electric yellow labs is a 55-gallon aquarium with sand substrate and rock piles with caverns. Because males can grow violent with one another, it’s advisable to keep a single male with several females.
19. Redhead Cichlid
Male redhead cichlids are among the most vibrant freshwater fish. Males in adulthood have a robust oval-shaped body and frequently exhibit metallic blues, pinks, greens, and oranges. They also have a bright pinkish-red nuchal bulge and short head.
These are big, cool-looking fish that can reach 16 inches. You’d need a 55-gallon tank and a wide footprint for a single fish. The tank should have rocks, driftwood, roots, and open swimming spots.
Expert Tip: The redhead cichlid is a somewhat aggressive fish, and while it is feasible to keep it in a community tank with African cichlids, success is not guaranteed.
20. The Rainbow Kribensis
The rainbow kribensis is well-known for its vibrant color. Males and females have cherry-red abdomens that vary in intensity throughout the breeding season.
Keeping Kribensis in a community or species-only aquarium is quite acceptable. They require plenty of vegetation cover, which means you need many plants and caves. They will coexist peacefully with other dwarf cichlids. tetra. and small barbs.
21. Fancy Guppy
Fancy Guppy is one of the aquarium trade’s popular and diversified species. Due to their ease of breeding, these are among the most common colorful freshwater fish. They are available in various patterns, color morphs, and tail types, making them difficult to describe.
It’s hard to miss the vibrant splash of color from a swarm of guppies in an aquarium. They are incredibly active and often congregate near the tank’s higher level.
If you wish to keep guppies, consider having males only or have more females than males to inhibit breeding.
22. Florida Flag Fish
These fish are small, resilient fish with a body pattern that mimics the stripes and stars of the United States of America.
Their bulldog-like snouts, blue heads, and brilliant bodies are covered with bright blue, red, green, and iridescent gold markings making them an eye-catching fish. Besides being stunning exhibition fish, they are good algae eaters and will assist in maintaining the tank’s balance.
Males are generally peaceful, but they can get aggressive during spawning. Therefore, mature fish will require plenty of room and plants.
23. Dubois Cichlid
Dubois Cichlids are an incredible, distinct freshwater fish species with their stocky bodies, fan-shaped caudal fins, and big heads. Their color changes as they age. A young DuBois’s body is dark black with vertical rows of white spots.
Expert Tip: When a Dubois reaches maturity, its spots disappear, its head turns a deep blue, and it develops a brilliant contrasting yellow strip around its pectoral fins.
This magnificent fish is highly aggressive. Thus, the need for expert care. It would be best if you also kept this breed in a species-exclusive aquarium with a minimum of six other fish. You can also keep them alongside other smaller semi-aggressive Malawi cichlids.
You will need a 55-gallon tank, sand substrate, and plenty of aquarium rocks. African driftwood, and rocks to keep this fish. If you’re a newbie, this breed isn’t for you.
24. Green Terror Cichlid
The green terror cichlid is a stunning exhibition fish and one of the best colorful freshwater aquarium fish. Males have a prominent nuchal hump and brilliant orange stripes along the dorsal and tail fin edges.
Green terrors can reach a massive 12 inches in length and should be kept alone, in a 1:1 male-female ratio, or with comparably sized and tempered breeds.
You’ll need a 55-gallon tank for one fish and a 75-gallon tank for a pair. You should fill the tank with pebbles and driftwood to provide them with locations to define their territorial limits. Green terriers are notorious for destroying most living plants, so if I were you. I would leave them out.
25. Jewel Cichlid
Jewel cichlids are vibrantly colored, one-of-a-kind looking fish native to western Africa. They are also known as the African Jewelfish. The red gem cichlid comes in various color combinations and is generally the most common in the aquarium market.
This fish has a brilliant red body (which can intensify with proper care and breeding), two enormous black spots, and an iridescent speckle pattern.
These are highly aggressive fish that can kill considerably larger fish. They reach a maximum length of 6 inches and require a minimum of a 30-gallon long aquarium full of rocks and driftwood. I would advise you to keep one male or female.
26. Peacock Cichlid
This fish is beautiful and long-bodied, with big fins on the top and bottom of its body. Males exhibit a wide range of vibrant color combinations. The red, blue, OB, strawberry, and dragon blood peacock cichlid are some of the most popular varieties.
Peacock cichlids can reach a length of 6 inches, and males are semi-aggressive in the presence of females. As a result, if you wish to keep a number of them, maintain a male: female ratio of at least 1:4. This breed is highly active and requires rocks, driftwood, caves, and plants for territorial marking.
27. The Congo Tetra
When fully grown, Congo tetras are huge-bodied with enormous scales and dazzling rainbow colors that sparkle and flicker in aquarium lighting. What distinguishes Congo tetras from other species is their characteristic red and golden line that runs from their head to their tail fin, which pops on their violet body.
A Congo tetra’s fins acquire a fluffy gray/violet extension with white margins when fully mature.
Expert Tip: Congo Tetras are peaceful schooling fish that thrive in groups of at least six in a planted 30-gallon aquarium.
28. Jaguar Cichlid
Although the jaguar cichlid is not as colorful as most freshwater fish on this list, it is unquestionably one of the most unique-looking aquarium fish. Its big, elongated, ovate-shaped body has varying amounts of black and brown patches that contrast with the golden yellow body. Similar to a jaguar.
The dorsal and anal fins of the jaguar Cichlid are prominent and showy, supported by spiny rays. And with their big mouths and bulging lower jaws with visible fangs, this wild-looking fish is one of the most interesting on our list.
This cichlid species is enormous. With a maximum length of 14 inches, a single male will require at least a 100-gallon tank, and a pair will need 150 gallons. They do well in groups of equally sized and tempered cichlids. However, you’ll need to provide them with enough area to establish their territories.
29. The Red Shoulder Dwarf Cichlid
Red shoulder dwarf cichlids are well-known for their striking red and blue face colors. Males and females both have vibrant colors, but males are usually more vivid. Adult males will have long, flowing fins and a square tail when fully grown. Additionally, their dorsal fins run the length of their bodies, exhibiting noticeable spikes.
A sandy substrate, caverns, driftwood, boulders, and enough open swimming room are all necessary for this kind of colorful fish to flourish. A pair in a 15-gallon tank is sufficient despite their diminutive size. A 30-gallon tank would be ideal for a group of at least six fish.
30. Pearl Gourami
Beautiful pearl gouramis have shimmering mosaic patterns. A prominent black line extends from the top of their head to the caudal fin on their metallic brown-orange bodies. Males usually have a brilliant orange neck, which brightens and intensifies during breeding.
Its huge, broad fins and long pair of extended ventral fins distinguish the pearl gourami and make it a lovely freshwater fish.
Their magnificent fins make them perfect prey for fin nippers, thus the need to keep them in a peaceful communal tank. You’ll need a 30-gallon aquarium filled with numerous plants (particularly floating ones) and a dark substrate.
Hopefully, you’ve gathered a good amount of freshwater fish-related ideas by now. I hope I’ve given you some food for thought.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, please do some research to ensure you can give them the best care possible so you may keep them for as long as possible. Let me know if you have any additional ideas in the comments.